Learning theory- Basics.
This theory states that we are born as a blank slate and our behaviour is determined by our experiences.
Operant conditioning; any behaviour that produces a positive outcome will be repeated, behaviours that 'turn off' something that is unpleasant will have the same effect. Skinners rats support this idea due to the fact that the animals repeated the behaviour when they gained a reward. Babies cry in response to hunger, this leads the caregiver to give them food, therefore being a negative reinforcement for the parent and positive for the child. This behaviour is likely to be repeated and can lead to attachment in children.
Classical conditioning; behaviour is learnt through association, with new behaviours being learnt when paired with stimuli which will produce a natural response in individuals. Pavlov's dogs will support this as through repeatedly pairing a unconditioned stimulus (food) with a conditioned stimulus (mother) to gain a unconditioned response (pleasure) , a conditioned stimulus alone will create a conditioned response.
Evaluation of the learning theory of attachment.
To suggest that behaviour is simply learnt is reductionist, as it fails to consider other branches, it could be that we are born with the ability to attach.
Harlow's study also also suggests the opposite, seeing comfort as a better predictor of formation than attachment and therefore it would lean away from the idea that we attach due to rewards and does not support the learning theory.
Harlow's study was a laboratory experiment and this means high control over variables and therefore adds reliability to his claims.
Harlow's experiment was unethical and used non human subjects so it makes it difficult to generalise to human behaviour and this weakens his claims.
Implications for teaching and learning are also huge if the learning theory is correct.
Harlow's study lacks ecologial validity and so it is hard to generalise.